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You are reading: The Australian student equity programme and institutional change: Paradigm shift or business as usual?

Written by Dr Nadine Zacharias, 2016 NCSEHE Equity Fellow, Deakin University

The introduction of the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP) created new opportunities for Australian universities to make strategic and systemic changes in improving access and delivery of higher education to diverse learners. My 2016 Equity Fellowship aims to understand how the HEPPP was operationalised by universities and to what extent the vision of a more equitable Australian higher education system was subsequently realised.

Through the analysis of annual HEPPP progress reports and the collation of representative institutional case studies involving interviews with key decision makers, my Fellowship is exploring whether, and in which circumstances, the HEPPP became a catalyst for organisational change.

My Fellowship project aims to bridge the gap between policy and practice to create a better understanding of how equity policy in Australia is implemented, what works and why. I am investigating the impact of the HEPPP on equity policy, practice and thinking and asking if HEPPP is the best possible funding mechanism to achieve greater participation and success of diverse learners.

My Fellowship includes close engagement with the Australian Government Department of Education and Training and the university sector. I have already completed a three-week placement with the Governance, Quality and Access Branch in Canberra and will undertake further visits during the year.

Engagement with the university sector is multi-pronged and includes collaborations with EPHEA, convening a Special Interest Group on Student Equity at the STARS conference in Perth, collating case studies illustrating different types of approaches universities have taken in response to the HEPPP and a planned symposium of cross-sectoral experts to explore important intersections identified but not fully examined during my Fellowship. I am also engaging with fellow practitioners and researchers on National Priority Pool funded projects, including the teams led by Professor Denise Wood (CQUniversity Australia), Dr Anna Bennett (The University of Newcastle Australia) and Tracey Conroy (University of Technology, Sydney).

The outputs of my Fellowship will include a briefing paper to the Department of Education and Training, recommendations for the sector and participating case study universities as well as a project report outlining the key findings of the Fellowship project for the NCSEHE.